16 November

Photo Journal, Wednesday, November 16: Three Images And Thoughts – St. Terese And The Elections, Love And Hunger, Animals And Gratitude

by Jon Katz

St. Terese and the mid-terms:  I’ve backed off from reading about politics again; the more I read the pundits, the less I feel I know. They can make me nervous but not well informed.

They can keep Florida; being asleep and gerrymandering make them happy.

I thought of my country as it entered another important holiday period, once a time of rest, family, respite, and reflection.

It is now a furious race for the best bargains online and the latest version of Alexa, resident nanny, our national invasive marketing spy, and data collector.

Oddly, I was reading  St. Terese of St . Lisieux, and she made me think of the election, which the pundits are still feeding off of like hogs in a mud pen. I didn’t expect that she would  make me think of politics.


We are drowning in conventional wisdom again; here we go, but nobody speaks the apparent truth. It was a close one, and we came out alive. Nobody knows what happens next. I see the country as waking up, not sinking into chaos and repression. We need not apologize for being asleep. All living things sleep.

Some of the pundits, like many politicians, have no shame.

Again and again, they are wrong; what they told us would happen did not happen. Even the Weather Channel does much better than that. Instead of apologizing, they just go at it again as if they know the truth.

This is why I live in the now. The past doesn’t matter; the future is unknowable.

St. Terese has some wisdom for them.

As unnerving as it is, our democracy is very much alive, seething with voters,  pundits, windbags,  candidates, organizers, donors, and poll workers. John  Adams would be nervous but also gratified; in a sense, this is supposed to happen from time to time, and all of the founders thought it would.

Jefferson said the thing we most had to fear was an electorate that didn’t care. He might be horrified, but he might be happy.

St. Terese is humble in her writing: “I am far from being a saint.  I should not rejoice in my aridity but rather consider it as the result of a lack of fervor and fidelity. The fact that I often fall asleep during meditation or while making my thanksgiving should appall me. Well, I am not appalled: I bear in mind that little children as just as pleasing to their parents asleep as awake, that doctors put their patients to sleep while they perform operations, and that, after all, “the Lord knoweth our frame. He remembereth that we are but dust.” (Ps: 102:14.)

I was surprised myself when I began connecting the election with St. Terese, the saint of small acts of good.

It began this way: Thinking of the election, I thought those of us who value our freedom and embrace compassion and empathy were somewhat asleep. Our country almost slipped away from us in a roar and a riot.

I am pleased that St. Terese was honest enough to admit falling asleep during meditation, as it often happens to me. This makes me think of our politics.

Those of us who want a kindler and more genelt America went to sleep some years ago, and now we are waking up, old and young, male and female, left and right. We are learning some important things that we overlooked or didn’t believe.


Thought Number Two: Maria and I are spending the holidays – Thanksgiving or Christmas – together; we are one another’s family now. We are sad about the loss of our families  – there is nothing to gloat about – but grateful to have found one another.

We so look forward to taking it a bit easy, writing on our blogs, being together, and sharing our love and lives.

Nothing beats love when you get right down to it, even obligation and duty.

I love taking portraits of people I like or live with, but Maria is challenging. An artist, she refuses to ever pose for me or sit still for a photograph.

She considers it fake and contrived and believes art should be spontaneous.

I love her new consignment discovery, a $30 winter coat with special thermal stuffing. The fur on top made for a natural photo. The smile was radiant.

Try taking a portrait of someone who won’t sit still for a minute to have a picture taken. I’ve figured out how to do it in a way she accepts. I set the camera for a small area zoom –  you can do that with the Leica – and I walk towards her.

She knows what I am doing but has no problem with it as long as she isn’t posing. As I get close, I start taking photos. Maria and I always smile when we get close to each other; it is a sweet, honest, and reflective habit that began years ago.

And she returns the favor; she is always taking pictures of me.

We are always happy to see each other. When I get close, I say something surprising, a dirty word, an odd word, an expected word, a funny face. And she smiles—every time. Maria’s emotions are as close to the surface as any human being I have ever known.

And once she reacts, I get a different portrait of her beautiful and honest face. It’s unorthodox, but a photographer does what they want to do. Images come out best when you like or love the subject.


Thought Three. This Thanksgiving Day, we will be with our animals, giving thanks for them and showing our appreciation for them with love, attention, and perhaps a few good and extra things to eat.



I couldn’t identify these sheep through the wall of hay as they dug their heads into the feeders to get to the seeds that fell to the bottom. It’s cold now; there is snow on the ground and no hope of fresh green grass for a while. We’re all getting used to it. I think it’s Robin.


All day, the geese fly overhead, a small miracle, heading south in their beautiful and loud formations. I finally took a picture of one of the formations as it flew overhead.




  1. Thank you so much for mentioning this connection. It’s very touching to read your words about the spirit of Thérèse of Lisieux and elections. She had election troubles too, when the convent chose a new Mother Superior. Because of some internal politics and misunderstandings between the nuns, the election went to an older powerful Mother Superior who was well-intentioned but inconsistent and arbitrary about rules and regulations. (For example, Mother believed that a nun should not be given pain medications or palliative care even or especially at the end of life, but should bear suffering for merit in heaven.) In all fairness, the election should have gone to Thérèse’s own older sister, who would have provided her with a far more gentle illness and death. Thérèse was grieved about the politics and keenly aware of the personal implications for her, but she resolved to obey the new Superior in all things and did so. Thinking of Thérèse’s attitude toward authority has been a great comfort over the years, and it’s heartening to see this post today.

  2. Beautiful photo of the geese. Even more beautiful photo of Maria. The camera absolutely loves her. You’re a lucky man.
    I love my wife beyond description as you obviously do as well.
    We both hit the power ball.
    Your photos are awesome as always.

  3. The sheep ?with his head up and covered with hay looks like Robin. Great picture of Maria, her new cost looks like it will keep her warm during your New York winter.

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